“Get a job?”
After selling my interest to a company I had worked on for years, I was at a loss for what I should do next. Frankly, the idea of working for someone else at this stage in my career isn’t exciting. Instead, I decided to go all in on an eCommerce business.
After more than a year of some significant expenses to get my site Bemodo.com launched, I created a helpful checklist to help you start an eCommerce business. With Bemodo, I focused on done-for-you eCommerce sites because launching your website can be complicated and expensive. I want to give motivated entrepreneurs the ability to set up in minutes, not weeks or months. However, I hope this checklist can save you time and money if you want to create your online shopping site.
1: Conduct market research: Understand your target market, competition, and industry trends. This is very important and may seem like a no-brainer. However, many entrepreneurs forget this vital step. The research will tell you if someone else is doing what you want to do and give you ideas of where they may fall short.
2: Develop a business plan: Outline your business goals, strategies, and financial projections. Understanding what you must do to make a profit is considerable. A big mistake that many entrepreneurs make is not charging enough for their products or service. Understanding your expenses will help you ensure you are charging enough for what you sell. When in doubt, provide better service and charge more.
3: Choose a business structure: Decide on a legal structure for your business, such as a sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, or corporation. I went to law school to protect myself from myself. Setting up an entity that will protect personal assets and serve you well for tax purposes is very simple and inexpensive. Don’t work hard to make your business profitable and lose everything because you did not set up your business correctly.
4: Register your business and obtain any necessary licenses and permits. My brother runs an online company that took him almost a year to get the required licenses and permits. It was frustrating because his competition skipped this process and was making money while he was dealing with government red tape. He will tell you he is glad he set things up right from the beginning. His competition has been shut down or put out of business, and he is flourishing. Get the permits; you won’t regret it.
5: Choose a product or service: Decide what you will sell and ensure there is a market for it. When I was first testing Bemodo, I did a ton of research on what to sell. However, after spending money on advertising, it became apparent that my margins were too thin to make money with my original ideas. Above, I recommend you know your budget. Sometimes you need to see how that product will sell before finalizing your expenses.
6: Choose a platform: Decide on an eCommerce platform to build your website on, such as Shopify, Magento, or WooCommerce. All of these platforms have their positives and negatives. Shopify is easier to set up than Magento or WooCommerce, but it isn’t easy. A whole industry charges a minimum of $5000 just to set up your Shopify website. You will be lucky if you only spend $5000 before you are profitable.
The difficulty and expense of setting up these platforms led me to create Bemodo to help other eCommerce entrepreneurs. In addition to choosing a platform, you must also set up payment processing (see below), a sales tax calculator, hosting, and inventory unless you are working with a drop shipping company.
7: Build and design your website: Create a professional-looking website that is easy to navigate. If you don’t have the skills to do this on your own, you can purchase a template from reliable sites such as Envato or hire a programmer from Fiverr or Upwork.
8: Set up payment processing: Choose a payment gateway, such as PayPal or Stripe, to accept online payments. PayPal and Stripe are the easiest to set up and get approved, but they are also the fastest to shut you down. On one of my sites in the past, Stripe held onto my funds for months before they released them to me. Read their policies on products or services you can sell before accepting payments. If not, you may be waiting a while to get your money.
9: Develop a marketing plan: Identify the most effective marketing channels for your business, such as word-of-mouth advertising, social media, email marketing, or search engine optimization. Social media requires time and patience, email marketing requires a customer list, and search engine optimization requires backlinks and proper word research. I recommend that you have a plan for all of the above and begin right away with word-of-mouth marketing to friends and family.
10: Test and launch: Test your website and processes before officially launching. Test, test, and test before you launch. How many errors you find in the text, links, and graphics are shocking. Ask friends and family to check out your site and provide feedback. Ask them to look at your products while they are there too. Your site will never be perfect, but you can eliminate significant errors before launching.
Launching an eCommerce site of your own can be challenging. This list may vary depending on the specifics of the eCommerce business you plan to launch, but it should provide a good starting point.